Christopher Columbus' descendant butchers history in op-ed

Christopher Columbus XX is defending his ancestor from criticism — but doesn't address some key issues

Published October 9, 2017 10:12AM (EDT)

Christopher Columbus (Getty/Hulton Archive / Stringer)
Christopher Columbus (Getty/Hulton Archive / Stringer)

Christopher Columbus XX is the direct descendant of Christopher Columbus. And he wants the world to know that his ancestor is a really good guy.

Columbus — also known as the Duke of Veragua — wrote an editorial defending his world-famous genealogical antecedent. The argument presented in the first Columbus' defense, however, was riddled with flaws.

"History has some truly evil people," Columbus XX wrote. "Columbus is certainly not one of them. Most often, history is not made up of perfect people and evil ones, but of complex people who must be understood in context."

The rest of the article written by Columbus XX focused on allegations that the original Columbus mistreated Native Americans. Although he correctly noted that Columbus never engaged in acts of genocide, despite the common misperception that he did, Columbus XX ignored that his ancestor still mistreated the Native Americans who he conquered.

Columbus XX also argued that the criticisms against both the original Columbus and the Spanish empire in general were part of a trend of "Anglo-supremacist propaganda," in which Spain is unfairly vilified while the British Empire's atrocities are overlooked. He further argued that the Native Americans with whom Columbus and other Spanish colonialists interacted did not always behave blamelessly.

Both of these claims, while having elements of truth in them, do not obscure the fact that Columbus did awful things during his career.

Aside from his mistreatment of the Native Americans, Columbus was also widely regarded as a tyrant who abused his power out of avarice and a desire to exact retribution against anyone who he felt had slighted him. This anecdote from The Guardian, written after new documents pertaining to Columbus' reign in the New World were discovered in 2006, summed it up rather nicely:

One man caught stealing corn had his nose and ears cut off, was placed in shackles and was then auctioned off as a slave. A woman who dared to suggest that Columbus was of lowly birth was punished by his brother Bartolomé, who had also travelled to the Caribbean. She was stripped naked and paraded around the colony on the back of a mule.

"Bartolomé ordered that her tongue be cut out," said Ms Varela. "Christopher congratulated him for defending the family."

While Columbus XX correctly wrote that his ancestor required tremendous physical courage to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a handful of small vessels, he stopped short of the grandiosity in President Donald Trump's Columbus Day statement, in which the president praised Columbus as a "skilled navigator and man of faith."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has also appeared in Mic, MSN, MSNBC, Yahoo, Quartz, The Good Men Project, The Daily Dot, Alter Net, Raw Story and elsewhere.

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